If you feel shakiness in your hands, and sometimes in other parts of your body, you may immediately fear you have a serious condition such as Parkinson's disease. Don't panic: The shakes aren't usually attributable to a debilitating disease, and you can take certain vitamins for shaky hands.
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Shaking hands and other tremors are a neurological condition, but usually a harmless one caused by stress, too much caffeine or a benign, but potentially life-altering, condition known as "essential tremor." Certain vitamin deficiencies can also cause shaking hands. Evaluate your shakiness, try lifestyle changes and, if symptoms persist, see a physician to be tested for vitamin B12 deficiency.
Shaking can have multiple causes, including vitamin B12 deficiency. Seek a comprehensive blood analysis from your doctor to see whether you need a supplement.
Why Am I Shaking?
Tremors in the hands are actually quite common and usually don't signal a serious condition, explains Harvard Health. You may experience tremor when you're at rest or only when you perform certain activities.
For example, you may experience a shakiness when your hands are outstretched or when unlocking your door, writing or pouring a cup of coffee. Everyone has a little bit of tremor, explains Harvard, and these are called "physiologic tremor." They're so slight, however, that you don't notice them, so they don't cause alarm.
Other potential causes of abnormal tremors include:
- Overactive thyroid
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation
- Parkinson's disease
- Post stroke
- Withdrawal from alcohol addiction
Essential tremor is another potential cause of your shaking hands. If you also experience shaking, uncontrolled bobbing or jitteriness in your head, trunk, voice or legs, it could be this neurological disorder. Essential tremor may be exacerbated by stress, caffeine, alcohol or certain medications.
You'll notice essential tremor doesn't affect both sides of your body in the same way, but is usually most obvious in your hands. Anyone of any age can develop essential tremor, usually as a result of genetics, but it most often causes more obvious symptoms as you get older.
The suspected cause of essential tremor is a miscommunication between the cerebellum and other parts of your brain, explains Cleveland Clinic. A healthy diet is always a good idea, but no specific vitamins for essential tremor are recommended. Sometimes the symptoms of essential tremor can be treated by addressing an underlying condition, such as an overactive thyroid, or by simply cutting back on caffeine intake.
If you have tremors that are interfering with your quality of life or are causing you concern, consult your doctor for an evaluation.
Anemia and Hand Tremors
You may think of anemia as a deficiency of the mineral iron, but hundreds of types of anemia exist, explains the American Society of Hematology. You can suffer an anemia due to a vitamin deficiency — a common one being vitamin B12.
Without adequate amounts of vitamin B12, your body can't make enough healthy red blood cells and your nervous system consequently misfires and malfunctions. A paper published in Neurological Research in December 2014 notes that vitamin B12 deficiency can result in involuntary movements, including tremors, dystonia (involuntary muscle contraction) and chorea (jerky movements in the shoulders, hips and face).
People with pernicious anemia — the deficiency in vitamin B12 due to a lack of the ability to absorb the nutrient from food — experience tingling in the hands and feet and sometimes shaking. These individuals' stomachs can't make a compound, known as intrinsic factor, which helps with B12 absorption.
Other reasons people may experience vitamin B12 deficiency involve dietary choices. B12 is found in animal products, such as meat and dairy. People who restrict themselves to a vegetarian or vegan diet may become vitamin B12-deficient if they don't take a supplement or consistently seek fortified foods.
You may also suffer malabsorption of vitamin B12 after some surgical procedures, explains the National Institutes of Health. In many cases, the reason for vitamin B12 deficiency is unknown.
Correcting Vitamin B12 Deficiency
If B12 vitamin deficiency shaking afflicts you, it's easily corrected. Oral or injected supplements of vitamin B12 can put your body back into nutrient balance. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you're severely vitamin B12-deficient to get tested and experience proper management of your supplement use. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms daily.
Read more: The Side Effects of Too Much Vitamin B12
Until you can see your doctor for a complete blood work-up, include more foods high in vitamin B12 in your diet. Shellfish, liver, fortified tofu and soy milk, red meat, cheese, eggs and fish are examples of foods to include so you get vitamins for shaky hands. Also, consider limiting your intake of caffeine and participate in stress-reduction practices, such as yoga and deep breathing, to help ease other triggers of the shakes.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published a position paper in December 2016 noting that people following vegan diets are at a reduced risk of many chronic disease, but do need to seek reliable sources of vitamin B12, such as fortified foods (cereals and other grains) and supplements.
Read more: The Disadvantages of Being Vegan
Vitamin D Deficiency
In adults, a deficiency in vitamin D may result in fatigue and a weakened immune system, but in infants, jitteriness and tremors can reflect a lack of this vitamin. A paper published in Pediatrics in August 2017 detailed a few case studies in which infants who present with shudders, shivers, tremors or jitteriness may be exhibiting the earliest signs of vitamin D deficiency.
Although breastfeeding is an incredibly healthy way to feed your infant, human milk often doesn't meet vitamin D needs, explains the National Institutes of Health. The content of vitamin D in breast milk depends on the vitamin D status of the mother, so exclusively breastfed infants may not be getting enough. If you're concerned about your baby's vitamin D levels, talk to his pediatrician.
- Neurological Research: "Involuntary Movements Due to Vitamin B12 Deficiency"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "What's Causing Your Shaky Hands?"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin B12"
- Pediatrics: "Benign Neonatal Shudders, Shivers, Jitteriness, or Tremors: Early Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Do You Ever Get ‘The Shakes’? 4 Puzzling Questions Answered"
- American Society of Hematology: "Anemia"
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Chorea"
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: "Pernicious Anemia"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Essential Tremor Disorder"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin D"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets"